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Expert tips for avoiding the 'time famine' trap
How to manage your time so you can actually accomplish what you want to.
- In a world that's always online, it's easy to feel like we have insufficient time for ourselves, or to spend with our families and loved ones.
- Working out what you need to get done each day, and how long it will take, will allow you to create priorities on which you can focus your available time.
- If you find the traditional methods of mindfulness meditation too difficult, then meditative practices such as yoga or even running can also be extremely beneficial.
Even before the world entered a "new normal" resulting from the global pandemic, time management was a challenge for many of us.
This is a particular problem for the United States. Longer paid vacations and caps on working time for many Europeans have led to a situation where Americans work, on average, around 10 percent more than their European counterparts.
Nevertheless, "time famine" is a very real phenomenon across the globe. In a world that's always online, it's easy to feel like we have insufficient time for ourselves, or to spend with our families and loved ones. In reality, there are never (no, never) more than 24 hours in any given day, and proactively choosing how we spend them can help to reduce the feeling that we're starved of time.
Here are some ways to achieve a healthier balance, so you can hopefully avoid the inevitable burnout that results from overexposure to time famine.
1. Make sure you get enough sleep
According to Harvard Medical School, around half of us get less sleep than the recommended guidelines. The average adult needs around seven or eight hours per night. If you're feeling starved for time, then the chances are that losing sleep feels like an easy compromise to cram more hours into the day. But the opposite is true.
A lack of sleep will seriously affect your productivity and creativity. One study found that even moderate sleep deprivation will impact your cognitive and motor performance to the equivalent level of having a 0.1 percent blood alcohol concentration, which is also the threshold for driving legally.So, although it may seem paradoxical, getting the right amount of sleep should provide an immediate productivity boost that will help you get through more each day.
2. Don’t let chaos control you
Hiten Shah, co-founder of document management software company FYI, has an anecdote about a friend who was asked by his boss to pull up a document while in the middle of a meeting. The friend started frantically scouring his hard drive, Google Docs and email attachments to try and locate the document.
All the while, the boss was sitting there, becoming more and more impatient, as Shah's friend was getting more and more flustered and embarrassed, which of course made it even harder for him to find the missing file. "Finally, out of cosmic mercy, someone sends him the document," Shah writes. "But my friend didn't feel relief at that point, he felt anxious."
It's a cautionary tale, to be sure. Truth be told, we've probably all had one of those moments. But if your day has become an endless cycle of looking for documents, trying to find your keys, and wondering where you put shoes when you took them off last night, then you'll benefit from getting organized.
This may mean using a document management system or simply creating a designated space for everyday objects. Doing so will mean you free up all that time spent looking for missing things and reduce your overall stress levels.
3. Schedule your time – but don’t overdo it
Effective scheduling of your time doesn't mean assigning each half-hour to specific activities. In fact, doing this will probably make you even more stressed as there's no flexibility to respond to last-minute changes.
But working out what you need to get done each day, and how long it will take, will allow you to create priorities on which you can focus your available time. In their book "The ONE Thing," authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan recommend asking yourself, "What's the ONE thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"
While it may be difficult to find that one task, you can start to list the top one to three most important tasks each day. Prioritizing these within your available working time will ensure you're focusing on the right activities to stay productive.
4. Get more comfortable with saying no
Once you have a daily or weekly list of priorities, it becomes easier to learn how to say no. If what's being requested of you doesn't somehow make it easier to achieve your mission-critical tasks, then you'll find it easier to politely decline. In the words of Warren Buffet, "Successful people say no to almost everything."
One easy way to start saying "no" is to switch off your phone alerts. Constant notifications can be a powerful distraction from achieving your goals. When we switch between tasks, it can take around 23 minutes to get focused again. Unless your job involves managing social media accounts, chances are you don't need to be notified about the latest like on a Facebook picture.
Similarly, if you confine checking emails to scheduled slots each day, you can dedicate your productive time to working on your priorities.
5. Use the help immediately available to you
If it's not possible to say no to a particular task or request, then perhaps it's possible to simply have someone else do it instead.
In his book, "Find Your Why," Simon Sinek writes that truly knowing yourself is the key to a sense of purpose. "When we focus on our strengths and lean in to the strengths of others," he writes of collaboration and delegation, "we can make the impossible possible."
Many people believe they have to do everything themselves to be successful. But a failure to leverage the help around you can lead to overload and fatigue. If you're in a position to delegate or outsource tasks, then do so whenever you have the opportunity.
6. Create some space for your head
According to a survey conducted by Buffer, 41 percent of workers believe that their biggest barriers to self or family care are feeling distracted and anxious. Feeling starved of time only makes it harder to be fully present doing whatever you're doing at a given moment, adding fuel to these negative emotions.
In a similar way to getting more sleep, it may seem difficult to make time for meditation if you're starting to feel overwhelmed. But studies have shown that meditation has multiple positive health benefits, including reducing stress, controlling anxiety and lengthening attention span.
If you find the traditional methods of mindfulness meditation too difficult, then meditative practices such as yoga or even running can also be extremely beneficial.
Let the feast begin
Time famine is a problem from which many of us suffer. But these few simple habits and practices can help to alleviate the feeling of overwhelm and increase productivity.
There may only be 24 hours in each day, but directing them into the right activities and priorities helps to cultivate a sense that time is a more abundant resource.
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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